Courageous Channel Exercise to Begin Next Week

Courageous Channel is a routine biannual exercise, but I am willing to bet that families are taking it a little bit more seriously this time:

U.S. military dependents, contractors, retirees in Area 4 participate in the Courageous Channel exercise at the Kelly Fitness Center on Camp Walker, South Korea, in May 2012.

U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Monday it will conduct a regular contingency response exercise next week for its service members and their families, including how to evacuate them in the event of a war on the peninsula.

The annual Courageous Channel training will be held from Monday till Friday in cooperation with South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. State Department, said the USFK.

“Courageous Channel prepares service members and their families to respond to a wide range of crisis management events such as non-combatant evacuation (NEO) and natural or man-made disasters,” it said.

Participants in the exercise perform tasks that include readiness briefings, document and passport inspection, roster updates, and limited rehearsals.

The USFK stressed that the upcoming practice is a routine one, not directly related to recently heightened military tensions on the peninsula attributable to North Korea’s nuclear test and missile launches.  [Yonhap]

Here is more about the Courageous Channel exercise from the Stars & Stripes:

The exercise known as Courageous Channel, which will be held from Oct. 23-27, is basically a dress rehearsal to make sure everybody’s ready to get out in a hurry in case of war or another emergency.

Military spouses, children and others wearing backpacks and pulling suitcases will file through assembly points on U.S. bases where wardens will make sure documents are updated and procedures are explained.

Information also will be provided about power of attorney, financial concerns, pets — which are considered family members — and other issues.

The military also has recently selected groups to be transported all the way to Japan, which would be a likely first stop in a real emergency.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Lawmaker Complains About the US-ROK SOFA Though It Is Currently Working the Way He Wants

Here we go again with the Korean left pushing propaganda about the US-ROK Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA):

Rep. Park Byeong-seug (left) of the ruling Democratic Party shakes hand with Chinese State Councilor for Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi. (Yonhap)

Nearly 7 in 10 criminal offenses committed by members of US forces stationed in South Korea end up with no one being charged by South Korean authorities, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

According to government data released Tuesday by Rep. Park Byeong-seug of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, the nonprosecution rate for crimes committed by US military personnel here stands at a whopping 70.7 percent as of July this year, up from 58.2 percent in 2014.

The figure for violent crimes, including murder, rape and robbery, is even higher at 81.3 percent, meaning 8 out of 10 offenders do not go through the Korean system. This proportion is higher than in 2014, when the number stood at 63 percent.

As for illegal drug use, which is strictly punished in South Korea, 42.9 percent of the accused members of US forces avoided indictment this year, up from 33.3 percent in 2014.

Rep. Park pointed to the Status of Forces Agreement between the US and South Korea as the main reason behind the leniency.  [Korea Herald via a reader tip]

Can someone name the last Korean that was murdered or even raped by a US soldier?  I can’t even remember the last murder committed by a US soldier because it has been so long.  The last rape accusation was back in February and guess what the soldier was charged by Korean authorities.  Since then nothing has come out about this case which people can draw their own conclusions about.  Bottom line there is not a rash of rapes and murders going on in Korea as Representative Park leads people to believe.  That leaves violent crimes being mostly assaults and robberies.  So why weren’t these servicemembers not charged by Korean authorities like Rep. Park Byeong-seug wants?  Because ROK authorities gave up jurisdiction to the US military:

He did not give details on how the US military dealt with those crimes it took under its jurisdiction, or what proportion of nonprosecutions were prosecuted by the US military.

“When such crime is committed by US soldiers, the US Army sends a request to South Korea’s Justice Ministry to give up the jurisdiction, and in most cases, we accept their request,” the five-term lawmaker explained.

“SOFA should be revised immediately to protect our jurisdiction rights and lives and property of our citizens.”

So what is Rep. Park complaining about the SOFA when it is working the way it is supposed to?  If Korea wants to handle every assault and robbery case involving a USFK servicemember they can.  However, they choose not to.  Why is that?  It could be because local authorities do not want to deal with the paperwork and the need for translators to properly handle a SOFA case.  Instead of complaining about the SOFA Rep. Park should take measures to ensure local authorities are better resourced to handle SOFA cases if he wants more servicemembers tried in Korean courts.

GI Myths: The Unfair US-ROK SOFA Agreement

However the real issue here is not the SOFA, but instead this is just another area where the Korean left is trying to draw a wedge between the US and the South Korean public.  Remember the Korean leftists want the US military out of Korea because they feel this is what is hindering reconciliation with North Korea.  However, the majority of the ROK public wants the US military to stay because of the threat from North Korea.  So the leftists have to demagogue these fake issues like the SOFA to change the public’s opinion of the US military.  They have for decades pushed this narrative that US troops are running around Korea committing all these crimes and getting away with it.  This is of course proven by data to be untrue.  This latest SOFA claim is just the continuing of this drum beat.

“Early” Transfer of OPCON of Military Forces to Korea Will Not Happen Until Early 2020’s

One of ROK President Moon’s top priorities after taking office was to push for the early transfer of OPCON to ROK forces.  The US government has pretty told him if he wants it he can have it, but the US side of the command will be downgraded to a three-star general:

Gen. Kim Byung-ju, deputy commander of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command, answers a question during lawmakers’ audit of the defense ministry affairs on Oct. 12, 2017. (Yonhap)

The South Korean and U.S. militaries will soon formalize a plan to create a new combined command, which will become effective when Seoul regains its wartime operational control (OPCON) of the country’s troops, the Ministry of National Defense said Thursday.

The allies plan to approve the scheme in their annual Military Committee Meeting (MCM) and Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) later this month, it told lawmakers.

The MCM is an annual session involving the chairmen of the allies’ Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). This year’s meeting will be held in Seoul on Oct. 27, a day before the ministerial SCM.

“(The two sides) will authorize the creation of the future command of combined forces during the MCM and the SCM,” the ministry said in a report for a regular parliamentary audit of its affairs.

The allies will then draw up a specific scheme to establish a system to have a South Korean commander and a U.S. deputy commander, it added.  (……..)

But the U.S. is reportedly negative about the idea of a four-star general serving as a South Korean commander’s deputy in the envisioned command. The Pentagon is expected to pick a three-star general for the position.

The left-leaning Moon Jae-in administration, which took office in May, has pushed for an early OPCON transfer.

It’s considering a three-stage road map: laying the groundwork for strengthening the country’s own defense capabilities, joint military drills organized by the future combined forces starting in 2019, and an actual OPCON transition in the early 2020s.  [Yonhap via reader tip]

You an read more at the link, but I find it interesting that President Moon wants the OPCON so bad, but is willing to let it be pushed off until the early 2020’s when Moon will likely be out of office.  There is enough time between now and then for this to once again be delayed by the ROK government.

As far as the structure of the US Forces under a three star general it appears that the old KORCOM template from nearly a decade ago will be used:

Oten said KORCOM will have “many similarities” to USFK, but eventually will become a supporting command after South Korea becomes responsible for wartime operational control of its troops on April 17, 2012. On that date, the Combined Forces Command, the joint warfighting command now led by a U.S. general, will dissolve.

In its place will be what USFK calls two complementary but separate commands — the Republic of Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff, led by a South Korean general, and KORCOM. The CFC commander, Sharp, will remain responsible for leading forces until that time if war breaks out, USFK officials said. Both nations will retain control of their own troops during peace and wartime, but KORCOM will support the South Korean command during wartime, USFK officials said.

South Korea has had armistice control of its troops since 1994, but its forces would fall under the command of the CFC during a war.

Sharp said in recent speeches that KORCOM will reach full operational capability in 2011 and will become a supporting command to its South Korean counterpart the following year.

As part of the transition, the 8th Army will transform from an Army service component command into an “operational, warfighting headquarters” called field army, Sharp said Monday in a speech at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

“This headquarters will have the ability to command and control U.S. and multinational corps-equivalent units in combat,” he said.

Maj. Jerry Pionk, 8th Army spokesman, who described an Army service component command as “basically a force provider to a theater commander,” said the transformation to a field army is ongoing and will continue for several years. A lieutenant general will continue to command the 8th Army after the change is complete, he said.  [Stars & Stripes – April 13, 2010]

Considering how much can change between now and this “early” OPCON transfer I put this all in the category of I will believe it when I see it.

USFK Announces It Will Begin Moving Units Into Buildings At Camp Humphreys Even If They Are Not Complete

Considering the expansion of Camp Humphreys has been going on for over a decade it would seem surprising that these buildings are not ready yet, but considering all the corruption going on it seems no one is surprised:

Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.

Camp Humphreys may accept buildings with minor flaws as planners face a new urgency to complete the long-delayed expansion of the Army garrison and future home of U.S. Forces Korea, the commander says.

Col. Scott Mueller, who assumed command of the garrison in June, stressed that no compromises will be made on “life, health or safety.” But he said cosmetic concerns and less serious problems may be fixed later as long as the facility is ready for use.

“Circumstances have changed now, where in the past they were just construction projects. There were delays that really wouldn’t have operational impact,” he told Stars and Stripes during an interview at his office on Tuesday. “But now we’re looking at it as, ‘Hey we’re moving. Let’s get these buildings done.’”

The relocation effort is gaining momentum amid a growing nuclear and missile threat from North Korea. Mueller said his No. 1 priority is military readiness and base defense, followed by family needs and customer service.  [Stars & Stripes via a reader tip]

You can read more at the link.

Incoming 2ID Mail to Have New Postage Stamp Commemorating the Division’s 100th Anniversary

If you are in the 2nd Infantry Division and expect to receive mail, you will now have a new postage stamp to see:

Army postal workers near the Korean Demilitarized Zone are celebrating the 2nd Infantry Division’s 100th birthday by stamping the unit’s distinctive Indianhead logo on incoming mail.

Camp Red Cloud Post Office in Uijeongbu City — just south of the tense border with North Korea — unveiled the new postmark on Monday.

The mark, which invalidates postage stamps on incoming mail, includes the words: “Honoring our past, inspiring our future,” and “Celebrating 100 years of history” beside an Indianhead like the one on 2ID’s well-known logo.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

US and South Korea Conduct Show of Force Bombing Drill

They US has went back to its usual play in its playbook to respond to North Korean provocations:

Four U.S. F-35B stealth jets and two B-1B strategic bombers, along with South Korean F15-K fighters, conduct a bombing drill on the Korean Peninsula on Sept. 18, 2017, in response to North Korea’s latest nuclear and ballistic missile tests, in this photo provided by the air force. (Yonhap)

A day after US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley admitted that with the latest round of sanctions the Security Council has just about reached the limits of China’s and Russia’s tolerance – and that the US will now need to explore other diplomatic, and possibly military, options, US forces joined with their South Korea counterparts for another “show of strength” meant for North Korea.

Both Haley and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared on the Sunday talk shows to stress – using language that’s ringing increasingly hollow – that the administration wouldn’t hesitate to authorize a military response to the North should diplomacy fail.

And to demonstrate that, four US F-35 stealth fighters and two B-1B bombers conducted another round of “mock bombing exercises” over the Korean peninsula on Monday, according to Reuters. The US aircraft, which were joined by four South Korea F-15K fighter jets, returned to their bases in Japan and Guam after the exercise, but the latest demonstration of western capabilities likely assures that Kim Jong Un, who views such exercises in the same way the international community views his missile launches, will seek to retaliate with his own show of force.  [Zero Hedge]

You can read more at the link, but Kim Jong-un was probably took more notice of the Sino-Russian drill that took place near his border with Russia:

Meanwhile, China and Russia conducted joint military exercises of their own near the Russian far eastern port of Vladivostok. The drills are the latest sign that the two powers, which have sought to serve as mediators between the US and North – though neither belligerent has so far taken the two countries’ offer to arrange diplomatic talks – are taking joint precautions should the conflict boil over into war, according to Reuters, which cited a report from China’s Xinhua news agency. Although it is unclear if the message is meant for fat Uncle Kim or not so fat Uncle Slam.

Those drills were conducted between Peter the Great Bay, near Vladivostok, and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, to the north of Japan. Those drills were part of joint China-Russian naval exercises, the first part of which was staged in the Baltic in July. Of course, Xinhua did not directly link the drills to current tension over North Korea.  [Zero Hedge]

You can read more at the link.

8th Army Commander Calls Camp Humphreys Expansion 80% Complete

Here is an update on the Camp Humphreys expansion project:

Originally a small fighter base during the Korean War, Camp Humphreys has transformed into the peninsula’s largest military installation.

Aerial snapshots taken Wednesday show a transformation 8th Army commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal calls 80 percent done.

Barracks and training ranges can be seen sprawling along the banks of Anseong River to the north as family housing and schools cut into vast rice paddies to the south.

Four-lane boulevards bisect block after block of new buildings. The base looks more like the massive U.S. installations of Fort Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas than it does the old Korean War-era camps filled with Quonset huts north of the Han River.

However, the images also show sore spots for the $10.7 billion project aimed to fulfill a 2004 agreement between Seoul and Washington to move the bulk of U.S. forces 40 miles south of Seoul.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.

 

Dozens Injured After Korean Protesters Removed to Allow Deployment of Additional THAAD Launchers

After all the months of drama in regards to this issue, the THAAD launchers are finally in:

U.S. military vehicle moves as South Korean police officers try to block residents and protesters who oppose to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, in Seongju, South Korea, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017.

I guess the next concern from USFK will be whether the road to the THAAD site will remain open or is this a one time police presence to open the road?  If so the helicopter resupplies to the site will have to continue:

Thousands of South Korean police were deployed near the THAAD site, which is in a remote southeastern area of the country, to clear the way for the U.S. convoy carrying the four additional launchers and other equipment on Thursday.

Scuffles broke out when hundreds of protesters tried to block the path to the former golf course that now houses THAAD. Local health and fire officials said dozens of people suffered mostly minor injuries.

The defense ministry said that, despite the protests, the THAAD deployment was completed.

Officials stressed it was a “tentative” measure resulting from the urgent threat posed by North Korea and a decision on maintaining THAAD will be made after a full environmental impact assessment is completed.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read more at the link.

ROK Defense Ministry Advocates to Local Residents that THAAD Deployment is Temporary

I think the key word in this article is “temporary”.  What is temporary about the THAAD deployment to South Korea?  Are North Korea’s missile going to magically disappear one day to where South Korea will no longer need the THAAD battery?:

Seongju residents gather on Aug. 30 after receiving letters from the Defense Ministry concerning the proposed deployment of four additional THAAD missile launchers. The sign is calling for those opposed to THAAD missile deployment to come to Soseong-ri, Seongju, North Gyeongsan Province on the day that the launchers are to be installed. (Provided by the Committee Opposed to THAAD Deployment)

Groups opposing the THAAD deployment are up in arms after revelations that Minister of Defense Song Young-moon sent a letter to Seongju and Gimcheon residents asking them for their “understanding” on the antimissile system’s temporary deployment. Groups working to oppose the THAAD deployment reported on Aug. 30 that Ministry of Defense officials, including active colonels and lieutenant colonels in the military, had traveled to the homes of around 20 people on Aug. 23–25 to deliver the letter from Song. The homes included those of the leaders of seven villages in the Seongju and Gimcheon areas, as well as the chairs of senior citizens’ and women’s associations, the groups said.

The letter stated that the temporary THAAD deployment was “unavoidable for a priority response to the North Korean threat.” “A temporary deployment means temporarily installing THAAD in open terrain with minimal preparations based on a small-scale environmental impact assessment, as opposed to completing the deployment after a general environmental impact assessment and the building of a permanently infrastructure,” it explained.  [Hankyoreh]

You can read more at the link.

Missing Teenager of USFK Servicemember Found In Seoul

Here is some good news that this missing American teenager was found safe in Seoul:

A U.S. soldier’s teenage daughter was found safe in Seoul and was reunited with her family Thursday, two weeks after she vanished from Camp Humphreys, a spokesman said.

Fatima Andrea Wdave, 17, was reported missing after she failed to report to her summer job at a sushi restaurant outside the Army garrison, about 35 miles south of the South Korean capital.

The U.S. military put out an all-points bulletin saying she was last seen outside her on-post quarters at about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 10.

U.S. military police picked her up in Seoul after she was located on Thursday and took her back to her family on Humphreys.  [Stars & Stripes]

You can read the rest at the link.